Mueller’s Testimony: Substance Matters

On July 24, 2019, Robert Mueller gave his long-anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. It’s been nearly two months since Mueller resigned from his position as Special Counsel from the Department of Justice. During Mueller’s resignation statement, he said if he were called before congress, he would only testify to the content in the Mueller Report. Mueller wasn’t being fictitious –that’s exactly what he did. 

While some in the media were hyping up his testimony, others were more measured in their forecast. Mueller is not –and has never been– one for theatrics or hyperbole. He built his reputation on professionalism, integrity, and objectivity.

As some media analysts foretold, there were no new bombshells that erupted from the congressional hearings. Mueller generally didn’t testify to anything that wasn’t already documented in the Mueller Report. Mueller didn’t stray from the confines he had set for himself. His answers were carefully worded and concise, and his demeanor was unassuming and measured.

As a result of Mueller’s by-the-book and short-winded answers, many members of the media were quick to characterize the hearings as “devastating,” a “disaster,” and some even described his demeanor as “weary.” It’s irresponsible for the media to spin such an important event in this way. This is something to be expected from most right-wing media outlets. Frankly, they were going to attack his testimony, as they’ve attacked his report, one way or the other. However, a fair share of the irresponsible framing of the testimony came from some pundits and analysts from the left-to-center mainstream media. 

We’re living in a unique time in American history. Before becoming President of the United States, most Americans knew Donald Trump from watching him on reality TV. Unfortunately, the manufactured drama and sensationalism of Trump’s reality-TV persona has never gone away. The only thing that changed was the set location: the White House. This kind of hyper-drama has become part of the media’s coverage of this administration. With Trump being loud and bombastic, it’s as if Mueller was expected to put on an act reflective of Trump’s reality TV-esque performances. If Mueller’s testimony is being judged mostly on his performance instead of its substance, then the public is not being adequately informed. 

This was never going to be something out of an episode of a courtroom drama or a scene from A Few Good Men. This is real life and this is serious. The implications of the Mueller Report and Mueller’s testimony –which essentially reiterated and emphasized facts from the report– couldn’t be more serious for our national security, as well as the future of our system of government.

The United States was, and still is being, attacked by the Russian Federation. The Russians are still actively engaged in acts of cyber-warfare against the United States. This is 21st-century warfare: instead of using traditional weapons of war to cause damage, the Russians are attacking us with hackers and sophisticated cyber weapons and assets. These cyber weapons of war are being used to create public discord by amplifying an already polarized political climate. They want Americans to not only distrust the electoral process and democratic institutions, but want to make Americans distrust one another by infecting the hearts and minds of millions of Americans by infiltrating our social media environments. 

This is a national security threat that’s being ignored by the Trump administration, as well as the overwhelming majority of the Republican Party. The Republican-controlled Senate has continuously dismissed legislation aimed to safeguard us from future cyber attacks. 

During his testimony on Russian interference in our elections, Mueller said “[Russia is] doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign.” When he was asked about the Trump campaign accepting support from the Russains and the fact that contacts from a foreign adversary in a political campaign went unreported, he said: “I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.”

There was only a single Republican congressman who even bothered to ask about Russian interference. A foreign adversary interfering in our elections and stoking division amongst Americans shouldn’t be a bipartisan issue. The fact that it is demonstrates that Republicans are putting their own self-interest over the country’s. 

Mueller also reiterated the evidence he uncovered on the part of his report that focused on obstruction of justice (Volume II) committed by Trump. In his report, Mueller found ten instances of possible obstruction of justice. Trump and his political supporters have spun the narrative that Mueller exonerated Trump of any wrongdoing. Trump has said repeatedly that he was “totally exonerated” by Mueller. While Mueller never had the power to hold Trump criminally accountable for the crime of obstructing justice, he did emphasize that he was unwilling to clear him of any wrongdoing. Mueller said, “The president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed.” Mueller was also asked if Trump could be prosecuted for crimes when he leaves office, in which he replied “True.”

Mueller did answer a question that wasn’t in the report, such as Trump’s characterization of the Mueller investigation being a “witch hunt.” Trump has been calling the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” from the beginning. He’s used the “witch hunt” phrase well over a hundred times, all in an attempt to corrupt the integrity of the investigation. When asked about this by a member of the House, Mueller said: “It is not a witch hunt.”

When the day’s long testimony concluded, Trump claimed a false victory. He lied and directly contradicted Mueller’s testimony. He said Mueller totally exonerated him, then later contradicting himself, said Mueller didn’t have the right to exonerate him. Trump was asked by a reporter about Mueller’s testimony pertaining to the fact Trump could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice when he leaves office, Trump lied and said Mueller corrected himself “…later on in the afternoon.” Trump then snapped at the reporter, saying “…you’re fake news. And you’re one of the most.” Trump’s political allies also engaged in this form of gaslighting. Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “Didn’t take long for Mueller to once again vindicate President [Trump]. No collusion. No obstruction. And now Mueller all but admits it was all along a total witch hunt.”

This is where we are as a country. The Mueller investigation concluded Russia did in fact interfere in our election, found at least 140 contacts between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and uncovered ten criminal acts of obstruction of justice by Trump. And Mueller reiterated and emphasized the details of his findings during his testimony. It was unfairly framed as a failure because some members of the media expected Mueller to turn into Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men. However, if you take a step back and really reflect on the substance of Mueller’s testimony, there were numerous bombshells worthy of a dystopian blockbuster movie.

Russia is a national security threat to the United States. In fact, investigators are finding that their interference in the 2016 presidential election was even worse than previously suspected. In a Senate Intelligence Committee report released just yesterday, investigators determined that Russia targeted election systems in every state in America. This includes hacking into voter registration systems, as well as state voting databases. 

Nonetheless, we have a president who refuses to even accept or acknowledge that the Russians interfered in the lifeblood of our democracy: the electoral process. He has taken the word of Vladimir Putin, a brutal dictator, over our own democratic institutions (intelligence agencies, Department of Justice, congressional investigators, etc). And the Republican Party continues to shamelessly support Trump’s position on Russian interference. They know it helped get him elected, and if the Russian’s want Trump in office, they also want Republicans in congress to support him. They’re allowing a foreign adversary to destroy us from within so they can preserve their own power. If an entire political party is unwilling to address, or even acknowledge, Russia’s interference and continued interference, then the party is rotten at the core. 

The House Democrats should be initiating impeachment proceedings. While it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will ever even hold a trial if the House passes Articles of Impeachment, that’s not an excuse for not holding Trump accountable for his criminality and accepting the assistance of a foreign adversary. Mueller provided an abundance of evidence –the House needs to put his words into action. There has to come a point where political maneuvering takes a back seat to carrying out their sacred oath of office: to protect and defend the constitution.  

Trump: A Traitor in the White House

Donald Trump has admitted that he’s willing to accept information on his political opponents from foreign adversaries. This is the most treacherous statement made by a president in American history. It sent shockwaves across the country: the President of the United States openly admitted his willingness to accept dirt on his political rivals from adversarial powers. It’s a felony for a campaign or government official to accept anything of value from a foreign government or entity.

The Stephanopoulos interview


Trump is infamous for rarely giving interviews to actual journalists. The overwhelming majority of his interviews are conducted by Fox News. Most of which are designed to promote him. They’re not meant to press Trump for truthful answers to questions of substance. Fox News anchors, such as Laura Ingraham, go way beyond softball questions, tee-ball questions are much more fitting for these farcical interviews.

However, on June 12, 2019, when ABC News’ Chief Anchor, George Stephanopoulos, interviewed Trump in the Oval Office, Stephanopoulos asked meaningful and pointed questions regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Stephanopoulos asked about Donald Trump, Jr., who was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee in reference to his Russian contacts leading up to the 2016 presidential election. This exchange led to Trump’s treasonous admission:

Stephanopoulos: But should [Donald Trump, Jr.] have gone to the FBI when he got that email? [The email being referred is an email he received saying a Russian national had dirt on Hillary Clinton]

President Trump: Okay, let’s put yourself in a position: you’re a congressman, somebody comes up and says, “Hey I have information on your opponent.” Do you call the FBI?

Stephanopoulos: If it’s coming from Russia you do.

President Trump: You don’t– I’ll tell you what. I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. I don’t–you don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do—

Stephanopoulos: Al Gore got a stolen briefing book. He called the FBI.

President Trump: Well, that’s different. A stolen briefing book. This isn’t– this is somebody who said, “We have information on your opponent.” Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break, life doesn’t work that way.

Stephanopoulos: The FBI Director says that’s what should happen.

Trump went on to say, “The FBI Director is wrong.” Mind you, this is Trump’s personally selected FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, who took over after the firing of James Comey.

This led to a series of specific questions about how Trump would respond to potential future offers of assistance from a foreign adversarial power:

Stephanopoulos: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

President Trump: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen, there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, “we have information on your opponent.” Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.

Stephanopoulos: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

President Trump: It’s not an interference, they have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research. Oh, let’s call the FBI. The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.

The interview ended after Trump’s final statement.

A brief history of Russian interference and Trump-Russia collusion


Trump admitted he would accept campaign-aiding information from a foreign adversarial power if it was offered to him. Before the Mueller investigation ever started, journalists were reporting on the Trump campaign’s connections with the Russian government. After the 2016 election, every one of our intelligence agencies confirmed the Russians engaged in an act of cyber warfare against the lifeblood of our democracy: our electoral process.

There were also journalists breaking stories about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, such as the now infamous Trump Tower meeting. This, coupled with federal investigators looking into the matter, led to the FBI initiating an investigation to look into any potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. The FBI Director at the time, James Comey, was fired. Trump later admitted he fired him because of his unwillingness to back off Russia-related inquiries.

Comey’s firing set off a political firestorm in Washington. While the president does have the legal authority to fire an FBI director, the context and timing couldn’t have been more suspect. Trump’s former attorney general, Jeff Session, had recused himself from any matters related to the Russia investigation since he himself was part of the campaign. Therefore, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, was tasked with overseeing the Russia investigation. Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to lead the Special Counsel’s Office. Mueller spent nearly two years investigating Russian interference, collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, as well as numerous instances of obstruction of justice committed by Trump.

Mueller ultimately concluded that Russia engaged in a “sweeping and systematic” cyber warfare campaign against the United States. Mueller also uncovered over 140 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals.

For anyone who’s read the Mueller Report, there’s no doubt that the Trump campaign was in communication with Putin’s Russia. Some of the communications were done right out in the open. For example, during a press conference, Trump pleaded with Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s “missing emails.” Russia was listening and they complied with Trump’s request. Just a day after Trump’s appeal to a foreign adversary to dig up dirt on his opponent, Russian operatives hacked into Clinton’s personal email servers.

Before he even took the role of special counsel, Mueller’s hands were tied as far as indicting Trump. The Department of Justice has a guideline, which says a sitting president cannot be indicted for a crime. So, even if Mueller found undeniable evidence that Trump committed felonies, he couldn’t do anything about it. If Trump was caught on tape committing multiple felonies, he couldn’t do anything about it.

Mueller could, however, indict other people associated with the campaign and Russians involved in the cyber warfare. In the span of his investigation, he indicted, arrested, and/or convicted 34 individuals and 3 companies. Some of these individuals were Trump campaign members or associates and some were Russian agents.

Even though Mueller was unable to indict Trump, he was still able to investigate him. After two years, he released his 448-page report to the Justice Department. The report was redacted, but even with the redactions, a history of criminal behavior on Trump’s part is evident. The most damning evidence came from Volume II, which focused on Trump’s instances of obstruction of justice. Mueller found ten concrete examples of Trump attempting to obstruct the investigation. This includes obstructing behavior from Trump, such him instructing a White House staff member to destroy written records to Trump attempting to have his staff fire Mueller.

Mueller’s report is essentially a roadmap for the House of Representatives to use in impeachment hearings. He said as much during the statement he made before resigning from the Department of Justice: “…the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Conclusion: Trump is willing to commit treason to get re-elected


After everything that’s happened in the past few years. All the confirmed reports of Russian interference and Russian contacts, which were all corroborated by the Mueller Report, taught Trump nothing. Even if he was truly ignorant of his campaign’s contacts with the Russians or was ignorant of the implications of appealing to an adversary to commit a crime against his political opponent, one would hope he would have at least felt deterred to engage in this kind of behavior in the future, but sadly that’s not the case. To make matters even worse, with his confession to Stephanopoulos, he’s even doubled down on his corrupt behavior. He’s open to accepting dirt on a political opponent from an adversarial power to benefit politically.

A foreign adversary wouldn’t provide information to Trump with no strings attached. They’re doing it to benefit their own geopolitical interests. The act of giving the Trump campaign information is a quid pro quo. It’s a transaction: Trump gets dirt on his 2020 Democratic challenger for president and then reciprocates by implementing or changing policies that will directly benefit the adversary. Therefore, Trump is willing to compromise our national security for his own personal, political, and possibly financial benefit.  

In response to Trump’s brazen admission, Ellen Weintraub, the head of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) said:

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.”

Despite Trump brushing off calling the FBI if he was approached by a foreign adversary, the FBI’s own website contradicts Trump’s assertion. On the FBI’s “Contact Us” page, in the section “When to Contact the FBI,” one of the featured reasons to contact them is for: “Suspicious activities that you believe threaten national security, especially suspicious activity that involves foreign powers or foreign organizations.”

Trump, in his statement about the FBI director being “wrong” serves only to compound the entire situation. Aside from the fact he’s willing to publicly malign his handpicked FBI director, he also compromised the bureau’s efforts to counter Russian interference. It not only serves to demoralize the men and women of the FBI, but it also undermines the work they’ve been doing for years to safeguard our elections from foreign influence. Trump has literally encouraged foreign adversaries to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. This, in effect, would also apply to congressional campaigns. And if the president is willing to engage in this type of behavior, why wouldn’t a dubious congressional candidate as well?

The United States Constitution defines “treason” as:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”

United States Constitution. Article III, Section III

It’s not hyperbole to brand Trump as a traitor. It isn’t based on conjecture or hearsay –it’s based on his own words. Trump’s interview with Stephanopoulos is one of the most shameful moments in the history of the presidency. The integrity and honor of the presidency has never been lower.

Trump doesn’t serve the interests of the American people. He’s only concerned with his own personal, political, and financial interests. He swore an oath to defend and protect the constitution, but has repeatedly betrayed that oath.

It’s easy to become hypnotized by the daily chaos being reported out of the White House. However, it’s critical that this does not become normalized. The House needs to initiate impeachment hearings immediately. There’s a traitor in the White House and he needs to be removed.

Correction: Trump’s call for Russia to find Clinton’s “missing emailsoccurred during a press conference and not a campaign event.

Mueller Translated: Start the Impeachment Hearings

On Wednesday, May 29, 2019, Robert Mueller broke his nearly two-year long vow of public silence. He announced the Special Counsel Office’s work is complete and tendered his resignation.

Since the release of his redacted report, there’s been infighting by Democrats on how to proceed, and spin from Republicans as to the report’s findings. Trump has attacked the Mueller Report on all fronts, yet still seems to promote the utterly false notion that the report exonerated him. And Bill Barr, Trump’s attorney general, misled the public on more than one occasion as to the report’s substance and overall conclusions.

Deciphering Mueller-Speak


Robert Mueller is a professional of the highest caliber. His reputation is steeped in qualities like integrity, honor, and fairness. He’s not a political player; he’s a professional. He doesn’t engage in hyperbole, and in his statement, never strayed from the carefully chosen words of his scripted remarks. Since we live in times of hyperbolic rhetoric, and Mueller has a strict code of conduct, we can’t mistake Mueller’s restrained statement as inconsequential. He’s never going to make an inflammatory statement, even if he may be thinking it. Therefore, we need to be able to read between the lines.

Mueller is the antithesis of Trump. While Trump will speak in an incoherent, impulsive, and stream-of-consciousness style, Mueller’s rhetoric is sensible and deliberate. Mueller speaks rarely; Trump speaks and tweets constantly. Mueller has morals and values; Trump is immoral and values only himself. Mueller speaks only on the facts; Trump lies so much the press can barely keep up with fact checking him.  

He hasn’t spoken publicly since he started his role as leading the Department of Justice’s Special Counsel’s Office. This naturally gives the times he does speak special meaning. He didn’t have to give a statement, but he did. This, in and of itself, should lead us to infer that he’s trying to communicate something important to the American people.

Mueller’s Statement Translated: Commence with the Impeachment Hearings


Mueller’s statement was brief, measured, and purposeful. There are two significant takeaways from his statement:

  • Mueller could not prosecute Trump even if he wanted to due to Department of Justice rules and guidelines. He was aware of this fact when he started, which influenced the way he conducted the investigation –knowing no matter what kind of crime was uncovered, he would never be able to indict a sitting president.
  • If Mueller had the evidence to clear Trump of criminal allegations, he had the power to do so –but he didn’t.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, it’s true that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime. If Trump, as he once bragged about, hypothetically shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, he technically couldn’t be charged with murder while he was a sitting president. This doesn’t mean he’s not culpable legally, however the criminal charges would have to wait until he left office.

Mueller, when speaking of the state of Trump’s criminality, said: “[if after completing the investigation] we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Mueller investigated 10 areas of possible obstruction of justice committed by Trump. Therefore, in those 10 areas, Mueller holds the opinion that there was undoubtedly wrongdoing committed by Trump, but due to the restriction of being unable to charge a sitting president, he couldn’t indict him. In reference to Trump’s wrongdoing, all Mueller could do was investigate it and write it down (i.e. the Mueller Report).

During his short statement, Mueller never used the word “impeachment,” yet in Mueller’s classically stark, subtle, and understated style of speaking, he said, “The constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Mueller’s referencing the constitution’s section on impeachment:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

United States Constitution; Article II, Section IV

While Mueller didn’t use the word “impeachment” in his statement, he did cite the remedy in Volume II of the Mueller Report. Impeachment is a political process and not a criminal process. From the start, Mueller knew his hands were tied in investigating Trump’s obstruction of justice from a criminal vantage point. Therefore, the only recourse is the political process of impeachment.

The vast majority of the Mueller Report is essentially a referral for impeachment. And Mueller’s statement was an appeal to Congress to initiate impeachment hearings. Mueller investigated and documented Trump’s wrongdoing, and then turned his findings over to Congress and the American people. Barr infamously issued a misleading summary on Mueller’s findings and then dragged his feet for nearly a month before releasing it. He did this in an attempt to manipulate public opinion.

In his statement, Mueller emphasized the importance of reading the report. He said he and his team selected their words “carefully.” He’s signaling that the evidence needed to initiate impeachment hearings are right there in the report.

Mueller and his team conducted their task with excellence and integrity. Nearly two years and not a single leak came out of the Special Counsel’s Office. The Mueller team did their job. Mueller gave the House the ammunition they need, and it’s now up to the House to use it.

Conclusions


For any rationally-minded person who read the Mueller Report, or at least understands the gravity of the areas of obstruction of justice, it’s clear this president has engaged in numerous acts of wrongdoing.

The world needs to see that we won’t stand for an amoral president. Future generations will judge us on how we dealt with this threat. Impeachment may not result in a conviction in the GOP-controlled Senate, but we need to establish that we did everything we could to fight back against injustice and hold this president to account.

When future generations ask what we did during these tumultuous times, nothing short of “we did everything we could” will suffice. This generation has a date with destiny, and the House needs to schedule it.